The following is excerpted from Mystic Chemist: The Life of Albert Hoffman and His Discovery of LSD by Dieter Hagenbach and Lucius Werthmüller, the authoritative new biography of Albert Hofmann released through Synergetic Press. This book, which contains a thorough historical survey of the impact of LSD on culture and nearly 500 photographs, many of which have never been seen before, is now available through Evolver or Synergeticpress.com at a 35% discount for Reality Sandwich readers who type in the discount code “REALITY.” Please support the Evolver network or independent publishing and purchase direct.

Part 1 of Mystic Chemist is here.


The endlessness of scientific endeavor ever ensures that the two noblest impulses of the inquiring human spirit are kept alive and rekindled, namely enthusiasm and reverence. –Max Planck

 

 

Mescaline

The German physician and pharmacologist Louis Lewin published in 1886 a first analysis of the peyote cactus (Lophophora williamsii) which he considered to be highly poisonous. His compatriot and colleague Arthur Heffter first isolated the main psychoactive alkaloid from peyote and confirmed its properties by a self-experiment in 1896, naming it mescaline. ?In 1919, chemist Ernst Späth succeeded in clarifying its chemical structure and how to synthesize it. In 1927, Lewin published ?his comprehensive study of psychoactive plants in his pioneering Phantastica (Lewin 1927).

In ?contrast to many subsequent researchers, Lewin distinguished between mystic visionary experience and pathological states of consciousness. Up until then, self-experiments with hallucinogenics had been carried out for the most part by lay people; artists or scientists outside of research assignments, ?as was the case with sexuality researcher and social reformer Havelock Ellis; in the 1920s, it was largely physicians or psychiatrists who carried out experiments and studies with mescaline.

In the following years, several researchers attempted to scientifically systematize the experiences.

The most important publication came from Kurt Beringer (1893–1949), a German psychiatrist and mescaline researcher and confidante of Hermann Hesse, C.G. Jung and Louis Lewin; his work Der Meskalinrausch (Beringer 1927) summarized the results of his extensive trials with humans and animals. As a private lecturer, Beringer experimented with mescaline at the psychiatric clinic of the University of Heidelberg and published the results in his professorial dissertation.

His subjects were physicians and medical students, who injected mescaline, and documented their experiences. Beringer considered mescaline intoxication to be a reliable means for exploring and better understanding pathological states of consciousness. In contrast with the criminal drug experiments conducted later by the Nazis on humans in concentration camps, Beringer’s subjects were volunteers or self-experimenting physicians. When no evident medical applications emerged, the considerable initial interest in this agent dropped off sharply. Up until the middle of the twentieth century, research and experiments into the therapeutic application of psychoactive substances were infrequent.

Albert Hofmann’s discovery of LSD lent unforeseen new momentum to research on hallucinogens. Researchers throughout the world began to investigate the psychological effects of LSD and associated neurological changes in the brain with renewed interest. Although the range of effects from LSD was not completely unknown, corresponding extensively to those of mescaline, its novelty was its unmatched potency—about 5,000 times greater than that of mescaline. LSD research quickly exceeded the boundaries of chemistry and pharmacology. It became interdisciplinary and influenced medicine, psychology, psychiatry, neurology, anthropology and the history of culture and religion. Between 1950 and 1965, around one hundred scientific articles on LSD appeared. According to several sources, up to 3,000 studies were published.

Experiments on Animals

The first animal experiments with LSD took place following its initial synthesis at Sandoz in 1938. After discovery of its psychological effects, LSD was removed from the category of drugs warranting further testing. Five years later, in 1943, it was again added to the list of experimental compounds. Most of the animal trials were carried out by Aurelio Cerletti, to be regarded according to Hofmann as a “pioneer of pharmacological research on LSD.”

Sandoz arranged several hundred animal experiments in their laboratories worldwide. In Basel, a small menagerie of animals received doses substantially higher than those effective on humans. The results were contradictory. Mice and rats reacted primarily with impaired mobility, aquarium fish with poor coordination while swimming.

Cats showed symptoms implying spells of hallucinations, i.e., anxiety when confronted with small balls. Hofmann remembered, “The animals stare anxiously in the air and, counter to the proverb, the cats do forget to hunt mice; they fear them in fact.” Dogs showed comparable reactions. A chimpanzee clan living together in a cage was disturbed over the one member that had been given LSD even though he showed no outward behavioral changes. It was hypothesized that the family was upset because that member no longer behaved according to the family hierarchy.

A famous spider experiment took place in Berne. Pharmacologist Peter Witt had been feeding spiders different drugs and then photographing the webs they wove while intoxicated. The most chaotic web of all was woven under the effects of caffeine, the loveliest under marijuana, the most regular under a low dosage of LSD. Under high dosages of LSD, the spiders wove three-dimensional webs that no longer were effective in catching prey. Under even higher dosages, the spiders did not bother any longer to weave webs. These now famous experiments were conducted under the sponsorship of Sandoz, which also supplied the LSD (Witt 1956).

Spider web woven under the influence of caffein

Spider web woven under the influence of caffeine

 

When a dead whale washed ashore on the Maine coast in 1949, John C. Lilly began his career in dolphin research. Born in 1915, the American neurophysiologist came to the site with several colleagues to dissect the animal’s brain. He had previously conducted brainwave measurements on cats and monkeys. From the whale, Lilly went on to dolphins, which have long fascinated humans. These animals were revered in ancient Greece; it was deemed a crime to kill them.

According to many personal accounts, dolphins have saved humans from drowning. Lilly found that not only are dolphin brains larger but they are also more complex than human brains. Hence, he wished ?to investigate these special creatures as living rather than dead specimens to see what their capabilities were.

John C. Lilly in the lab

John C. Lilly in the lab

 

Lilly invested his entire savings—he came from a wealthy family—to buy a strip of Caribbean coastland on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. There he established the Communication Research Institute. In the early 1960’s, Lilly and up to thirty coworkers began studying the mental abilities of dolphins, including under the influence of LSD. The experimental animals were kept in a large basin where the researchers could swim with them. Lilly found that a 200 kilogram dolphin on a dosage of 100 micrograms exhibited increased respiratory (by 50%) and pulse (by 20%) rates. These physiological changes interested him less than the experiment carried out with an injured, traumatized female dolphin. When they would approach her, she would immediately swim to the far edge of the basin. Forty minutes after receiving a dosage of 100 micrograms of LSD, she began to exhibit curiosity and approached the edge of the basin where Lilly was observing. That was the first time in two years that the female dolphin approached him this closely. She lay still and, with one eye above the water, observed Lilly for ten minutes. Previously, she had maintained a distance of at least six meters, but when he walked around the basin, she followed him and approached within one meter, astonishing Lilly that LSD could so quickly induce trust in this dolphin. It remained unknown whether similar results would occur with other mammals.

Lilly and his colleagues later abandoned the use of LSD and attempted by means of underwater microphones to communicate with dolphins in English and with symbols on monitors; their success was rudimentary. From this, Lilly concluded that dolphins communicate in more subtle ways and at other levels of consciousness and intelligence than humans. He became so fond of the animals that he no longer wished to hold them captive and, in 1987, ‘the dolphin whisperer’ gave the last pair their freedom.

An impetuous researcher does not fear even the largest animals, as was proved by a legendary experiment with an elephant, performed on behalf of a branch of the U.S. Intelligence Services. In 1962, Dr. Louis Jolyon West, known for not being squeamish, was asked by the CIA to conduct an LSD test with an elephant at the University of Oklahoma. The animal which weighed over three tons was injected with a dosage of 297 milligrams. West and two other men conducting the absurd experiment sought to determine whether LSD unleashed the uncontrolled aggressiveness noted in elephants during their rutting season. Five minutes after being injected, the elephant collapsed and went into severe convulsions. To calm the animal, a dosage of 2.8 grams of chlorpromazine was injected in one ear after an additional fifteen minutes, ?but to little effect.

One hour later, West injected the suffering pachyderm with an unspecified amount of pentobarbital, an anesthetic. The elephant died an hour and forty minutes after the LSD injection. It remained unknown whether death was caused by the enormous dosage of LSD or by the other two substances. Albert Hofmann wrote: “An elephant given 0.297 grams of LSD died within minutes. Assuming a weight of five thousand kilograms, this gives us a fatal dosage at 0.06 thousandth grams per kilogram body weight. Since it was a single case, this value is not useful but from it we can deduce that the sensitivity of the largest land animal to LSD is rela-tively high since the lethal dosage was one thousand times smaller than that used with a mouse. Most animals die of respiratory failure after a lethal dose of LSD.” Hofmann himself never rejected animal experiments as the practice was simply an accepted aspect of pharmacological research at that time.

The most important conclusion from the animal trials was that the fullest effect of LSD is only found in those creatures having the most developed nervous systems and that, compared with humans, higher dosages are necessary with animals to achieve comparable effects.

The First Experiment on Humans

The first report on systematic human experiments with LSD appeared in the Schweizer Archiv für Neurologie und Psychiatrie (Stoll 1947), four years after the discovery of its effects. Its author, Werner Stoll, a physician and the son of Arthur Stoll, conducted the test at the psychiatric clinic of the University of Zurich with both mentally ill (mostly persons with schizophrenia) and healthy subjects. Of the forty-nine administrations of LSD, twenty-nine were with healthy adults (eleven men and five women).

The first series consisted of the fifteen self-experiments by LSD’s discoverer, his lab assistant, and physicians, as reported in their personal notes. Stoll considered the observations gained from these trials of varying dosages to be preliminary trials. They laid the groundwork for a second series of fourteen ?uniform trials which he personally conducted, monitored and recorded.

He endeavored to systematically study the psychological effects of LSD using psychiatric methodology. The doses used were low, from twenty to one hundred and thirty micrograms. The results describe many of the experiences known today. Once experiments with normal subjects showed LSD to be essentially harmless, twenty clinical trials were conducted at Burghölzli, the Psychiatric University Clinic of Zurich, on six schizophrenic patients who had not responded to the usual treatments. Stoll especially noticed that the symptoms from the action of ?LSD observed in those patients were weaker and less developed than in normal subjects.

Stoll concluded that “the question of whether there is a therapeutic application is still open.” He urged that “experimental testing of LSD be continued. Every trial with an intoxicant poses a host of interesting questions about psychopathology. But above all, the enormous effectiveness of LSD should justify further investigation.” (Stoll 1947) He suggested adding a radioactive marker to LSD to permit tracing it through the human body. His report on the experiment was a sensation among experts in the academic world and aroused attention both for the experiences described and for the effect of such minimal dosages of a chemical substance.

The Psychotomimetic Paradigm

In his investigation of mescaline, the ?psychiatrist Tayleur Stockings considered the state induced by it to be a kind of pharmacologically controlled schizophrenia: “Mescaline intoxication is indeed a ?true schizophrenia´if we use the word in its literal sense of ´split mind,´ for the characteristic effect of Mescaline is a molecular fragmentation of the entire personality, exactly similar to that found in schizophrenic patients. Thus the subject of the mescaline psychosis may believe that he has become transformed into some great personage, such as a god or a legendary character, or a being from another world. This is a well known symptom found in states such as paraphrenia and paranoia.” (Stockings 1940)

Like Stockings, most physicians and psychotherapists in the 1940’s assumed that the state of consciousness triggered by LSD and mescaline was comparable to schizophrenia and that it involves an artificially induced psychosis. They considered LSD to be a proven means for bringing about a “model psychosis,” a term coined by Kurt Beringer.

The enormous effectiveness of LSD lent credence to the theory that endogenous psychoses and schizophrenia are biochemically contingent and arise when, under specific circumstances, a person’s metabolism produces a substance similar to LSD that, in turn, induces abnormal conditions. Advocates of this theory reason that schizophrenia does not involve mental illness, but is rather the body poisoning itself through pathological changes in biochemical processes.

Research initially focused on testing this hypothesis, scrutinizing descriptions of the similarities and differences between descriptions of the phenomena of psychedelic experience and schizophrenia. Of particular interest was the similarity of the chemical structures of psychedelics with those of neurotransmitters, the biochemical substances which send information between nerve cells.

It was found that, chemically, mescaline resembles noradrenaline and adrenaline and that psilocybin and lysergic acid amides have similarities to the neurotransmitter serotonin. During the 1950’s there were several theories about which specific substances or metabolites—waste products of the body’s metabolic processes—might trigger schizophrenia. The consensus centered on the explanatory model that LSD interferes with the neurotransmitter serotonin to trigger abnormal psychic processes; this was thought to provide a similar mechanism and yield ?the biochemical cause for schizophrenia. This reductionist view of schizophrenia ?was later criticized and eventually most researchers discarded it. Many studies examined the effect of LSD on biochemical and physiological functions, on the organs, on tissue structure, and on enzyme systems.

In the early days of LSD research, monitored self-experiments were seen by many as a reliable and useful exercise when training psychiatrists, psychologists, and other therapeutic professionals to give them a brief and limited glimpse of the world of their schizophrenic patients. In this way, healthy volunteers gained insight and understanding through simulated mental illness. Even though the idea of model psychosis was later widely abandoned, Stanislav Grof found this to be “a unique and valuable learning experience for all clinicians and theoreticians studying abnormal mental states.” (Grof 1980)

A Helpful Tool for Psychotherapy

The possibility of using LSD therapeutically was first suggested by Gion Condrau, the Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist, in 1949, two years after Werner Stoll’s publication. At the time, LSD was beginning to be seen as a purely pharmacological tool with properties that gave it curative power. Condrau himself proposed treating depression with LSD since it had shown euphoric effects in some subjects. Hoping to achieve positive mood shifts in depressive patients, he administered successively greater daily doses of LSD.

His results and those of other researchers who followed his procedures of daily dosage were not convincing. Instead, ingestion of LSD led more often to reinforcement of the patient’s prevailing mood than to a lasting, positive mood shift. Other attempts at using LSD as a medicament rather than as a therapy support also failed to bring the desired effect. This notion of LSD as a chemotherapeutic agent was eventually dropped altogether. Hofmann emphasized that while hallucinogens fulfill the role of a medicinal tool, they are not therapeutic agents per se.

In the early 1950s, several researchers suggested independently the use of ?LSD to deepen and intensify the psychotherapeutic process. Its use with psychoanalysis is based on the knowledge that patients who are bogged down in their problematic patterns can be more easily jarred loose by shaking up their customary outlook. The resulting relaxed state can improve the patient-therapist relationship and make the patient more receptive to suggestions. Forgotten or repressed experiences become more quickly available for psychotherapeutic treatment. As a consequence of these insights, two main therapeutic approaches emerged.

The approach widely used in Europe was psycholysis or psycholytic therapy, a term coined by the British psychotherapist Ronald Sandison which is still applied today. This psychotherapy uses LSD in low to medium doses at intervals of about a week. The material that resurfaces from the patient’s subconscious is usually interpreted from the Freudian psychoanalytic perspective.

While generally approached from a depth psychological perspective, LSD-supported psychotherapy has been influenced by humanistic psychotherapies since the 1960s. An extension of the ?psycholytic approach is anaclitic therapy (from the Greek anaklinein—to lean upon) in which the patient and therapist enter into close contact and, during the dramatic phases of the LSD experience, physical contact is permitted.

The theoretical framework is expanded by archetypal and mystical elements. These are largely related to experiences of fusion and oneness, hence the synonymous designation as “fusion technique.” Two London psychoanalysts, Joyce Martin and Pauline McCririck, developed it during the 1970s and built upon the finding that deep regressions can occur during LSD sessions. In contrast with traditional therapy procedures, Martin and McCririck took on a mothering role and engage in close bodily contact with their patients. This gives the patient an experience of primal symbiotic unity. Patients commonly report experiencing a feeling of oneness with the cosmos.

In the USA, psychedelic therapy was developed during the 1960s. It differed considerably in many points from the ?psycholytic approach but found little resonance in Europe. In the psychedelic approach, a high dosage of LSD was administered generally once or twice during the therapy after extensive preparation. Analytic aspects play a subordinate role. The decisive factor for a successful therapy was achieving a spiritual peak experience that was supposed to bring about a profound transformation and restructuring of the personality. This approach was born out of the recognition that for many patients who reported mystical experiences in their sessions, their clinical condition improved dramatically and their personality changed positively.

In contrast with psycholytic therapy, which continuously seeks to change unconscious structures, here the emphasis is on achieving a radical transformation within a short time. Critics fault insufficient comprehension of the underlying mechanisms of psychedelic therapy in accounting for the frequent attacks on it, despite its great successes.

The strongest indicators for applying LSD therapy are alcoholism and other addictions, depression, neuroses, psychosomatic disorders, and alleviation of mental suffering and physical pain in terminally ill cancer patients.

Realms of Consciousness

The German neurologist Walter Frederking inquired of Albert Hofmann in February 1951 how and where he might obtain LSD. He learned of it from articles which the German writer Ernst Jünger sent him. Hofmann was pleased with the interest and had Professor Rothlin, director of the pharmacological division, send Frederking a sample. In April, Frederking sent his first interim report of the results to Sandoz. He had experimented with mescaline since 1935 and subsequently used it in treatment. He sent Hofmann a report in 1954 on treatment of sixty patients with LSD and forty with mescaline—all involving neurotic, therapy-resistant patients. Frederking judged the treatment effect of LSD to be greater than that with mescaline. He expressly recommended that any physician employing LSD study the effects of a higher dosage on oneself under supervision in order to better interpret a patient’s experience under LSD.

Frederking’s colleague, Göttingen physician and psychiatrist Hanscarl Leuner, developed the idea of intensifying catharsis through the use of low dosages of LSD. Between 1955 and 1960, he carried out more than thirteen hundred individual sessions with neurotic patients and healthy volunteers, administering different hallucinogens. In 1960, he organized the first European Symposium for Psychotherapy under LSD 25 at the University of Göttingen. It drew experienced colleagues from ?Denmark, the Netherlands, England, Norway, Czechoslovakia, Italy, and Germany.

In 1964, Leuner founded the European Medical Society for Psycholytic Therapy (EPT). At the time, psycholytic therapy was being practiced in eighteen European treatment centers as well as by ?many psychotherapists. It appeared to ?be an effective, scientifically establish?ed, and safe treatment method that held ?great promise. Particularly good re?sults were achieved for patients with severe neuroses. Leuner became the leading ?proponent of the psycholytic approach in Germany. More than two decades later, in 1985, he and other researchers founded the European College for the Study of Consciousness (ECSC) and he became its president. He conceived of the ECSC as a forum for further research and exchange of knowledge in the area of altered states of consciousness and placed high value on its multi-disciplinary orientation.

This ranged from the basic sciences, such as neurochemistry, neuro-?physiology, and psychopharmacology, to psychopathology, psychiatry, psychotherapy, anthropology, the psychology of religion, and research into creativity. After its founding, the ECSC organized several international symposia and three theme-specific congresses under the heading “Realms of Consciousness.” Albert Hofmann and Hanscarl Leuner had enjoyed a collegial relationship since the 1950s and Hofmann was delighted to chair the collegium at Leuner’s invitation. Hofmann participated regularly as a presenter at ECSC events between 1985 and 1999.

Trauma Therapy

The Dutch psychiatrist Jan Bastiaans began working with psilocybin and LSD in 1961. From 1963 to 1985, he was professor of psychiatry at the State University of Leiden and by 1988 had practiced hallucinogen-assisted psychotherapy with some three hundred patients at the psychiatric clinic in Oegstgeest. His criteria for use of LSD consisted of three categories of patient: Those with psychosomatic disorders and highly rigid defense and coping mechanisms, those with survivor or concentration camp syndrome, and patients who showed no improvement after several years of psychoanalysis. Unfortunately, the state health authorities could provide no systematic and concluding summary of results from his treatment, due to missing patient records.

Bastiaans became internationally known upon the successful LSD-assisted treatment of Israeli writer Yehiel De-Nur. As prisoner number 135633, De-Nur survived two years in Auschwitz. Harrowing memories of what he had experienced and seen haunted him over the next thirty years. He could not sleep or focus on his work. To end his suffering, he sought treatment through LSD-assisted therapy in Jan Bastiaan’s clinic. It took three sessions during which he lived through the hell of Auschwitz again before he could speak about it with Bastiaans. The fourth session brought a breakthrough. He saw himself die on a death march at Auschwitz and hover above the camp. Although Bastiaans would have preferred to analyze De-Nur’s trauma more deeply, his patient stopped therapy. He felt cured and was no longer plagued, either awake or asleep, by his memories. He realized that it wasn’t Satan who caused the clouds of smoke above the fiery ovens of Auschwitz, but you and me, us. Humans and not “the devil” were responsible for the Holocaust. The insights from this death and rebirth experience freed De-Nur from his mental concentration camp. As Ka-Tzetnik (“Concentration Camper”) number 135 633, he described the stages of his therapeutic process in Shivitti (1989).

LSD Comes to England

In September 1952, British physician and psychiatrist Ronald Sandison visited the Sandoz Laboratories in Basel and, with Albert Hofmann, discussed using LSD in treating the mentally ill. In November he returned to Basel and Hofmann gave him ampoules of Delysid® each containing 100 micrograms of LSD. Thus, the first LSD came to Great Britain. In 1953, Sandison began to work with it at Powick Hospital in Worcestershire. He opened the first LSD clinic in 1958.

Sandoz supplied him with the substance at no cost until 1964. After he left the clinic, Justin Johanson, a physician, took over and worked with LSD until his retirement in 1972. In all, 638 patients treated in 13,785 sessions had better than average outcomes. Sandison published his results with LSD treatments in the Journal of Mental Science in 1954. His article formed the basis for LSD therapy in Great Britain. In June 1954, the News Chronicle published an article with the title “Science has Alice-in-Wonderland-Drug” giving an objective report of Sandison’s work. This brought greater understanding of his work and made him more widely known in Britain.

Studies in Saskatchewan

The British psychiatrist Humphry Fortescue Osmond began to study pharmaceutical treatment of psychiatric conditions in 1950 in London. Together with his colleague, John R. Smythies, he compared the symptoms of schizophrenia to the effects of hallucinogenic drugs and studied their similarities and interrelationships. After he had established a similarity in the molecular structures of mescaline and adrenaline, he formulated the hypothesis in 1952 that biochemical substances might be responsible for schizophrenia. Osmond and Smythies moved to Saskatchewan, Canada, and continued their research at Weyburn Mental Hospital where the psychiatrist Abram Hoffer soon joined them. Together they formed a psychotherapeutic research team that carried out different patient studies ?using LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs. ?In 1954, Osmond, Smythies, and Hoffer published their theory that the body’s own adrenochrome could lead to hallucinations and trigger schizophrenia, but this was later refuted.

Beginning in 1953, Osmond successfully treated chronic alcoholics using LSD. Nearly half of those treated, volunteers from Alcoholics Anonymous who failed to achieve sobriety using the self-help group alone, no longer drank after one year. As yet, no other treatment has even approached this success rate.

Behind the Iron Curtain

The Polish physician Rostafinski was the first to work with LSD in what were then the Eastern Bloc countries. He treated eight children who suffered from epilepsy with LSD in 1950. Czech physician and psychiatrist Milan Hausner began his study of LSD therapy in the mid-1950s in a sanatorium near Prague. As a consequence, nearly thirty psychologists and psychiatrists received LSD therapy training.

The most comprehensive studies and experiments were done at the Psychiatric Research Institute at Charles University in Prague. In 1956 the brain researcher, Professor George Roubicek, received a package of LSD he had ordered from Sandoz. After reading Werner Stoll’s report on his LSD experiments, Roubicek was curious to try the substance on himself and his students. His particular interest was in the effect of LSD on the brain’s electrical activity.

He administered a strong dose of 250 micrograms LSD to subjects in a dark room and recorded their physiological parameters throughout the trial. Three hours after receiving the drug, the subjects were exposed to a stroboscope emitting alternating frequencies of oscillating flashes to determine their effect on brain wave activity.

In the fall of 1956, Stanislav Grof had his first experience with LSD as a young medical intern. This introduction to the effects of LSD, this “divine thunderbolt,” sparked the beginning of Grof’s career. He was convinced he had found an extremely elegant shortcut for Freud’s “royal road” to the unconscious. “This combination of the light and the drug evoked in me a powerful mystical experience that radically changed my personal and professional life. Research of the heuristic, therapeutic, transformative, and evolutionary potential of non-ordinary states of consciousness became my profession, vocation, and personal passion.” (Grof 2006) Stanislav Grof received a two-year research grant from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and afterwards he remained in the USA where his work was later to have an important influence.

LSD Conquers America

In 1949, Army psychiatrist Max Rinkel brought the first LSD to the United States after visiting Sandoz in Basel; with his colleague, Robert W. Hyde, he began to use it in the first experiments in the USA at the Psychopathic Hospital in Boston. Hyde is considered to be the first American to have an LSD experience. In the same year, American psychiatrist Nick Bercel procured LSD in Basel and began using it in his therapeutic practice in Los Angeles. As early as May 1950, at a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), Rinkel and Hyde reported the results of the LSD treatments they had begun a year earlier on one hundred students at the Boston Psychopathic Hospital. Hyde simultaneously published the first article on LSD to appear in the American Psychiatric Journal in which he gave details on inducing a model psychosis.

In contrast to those therapists who concentrated on giving their patients a pleasant or mystical experience through LSD, Rinkel and Hyde were focused on temporarily inducing a psychotic state in their students. Another researcher at the conference, psychiatrist Paul Hoch, agreed with Hyde and Rinkel’s theory of model psychosis. He believed that such substances could upset a person’s mental stability and that LSD gave the clinicians a tool with which to explore model psychoses in the laboratory. Hoch, Hyde, Rinkel and, later, many of their colleagues considered LSD to be a great tool for research into schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. In the eyes of many scientists, the psychotomimetic properties of LSD opened up new possibilities for exploring the biochemistry of the brain and the functions and dysfunctions of the human mind.

Early on it was clear that LSD had fallen upon fruitful ground in the United States, and would have a far greater impact than in Europe. The first international conferences dedicated to LSD and mescaline took place in 1955 in Atlantic City and at Princeton. Around that time, first reports emerged of recreational use of LSD by physicians in Los Angeles.

In October of 1952, Carlo Henze of the American branch of Sandoz wrote to Albert Hofmann and asked him to write an article about the discovery of LSD for the periodical Medical Horizons. He closed his request with the prophecy: “Sooner or later, LSD will become an important affair in New York.” He wrote Hofmann a short time later that, “We are getting cold feet about LSD because of the extreme interest official and unofficial circles have shown. We should therefore consider whether communications that go beyond the scope of psychiatrists and bona fide scientists are currently in order. I think we will wait a bit until we have a clearer idea about the future development of LSD.”

Teaser image courtesy of Creative Commons license.